The Giants are in control of the World Series

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The Giants are in control of the World Series

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Giants' extended family lingered on the field long after the final out, posing for pictures and savoring the win. Cars honked in the streets outside AT&T Park and fans celebrated in the bars.San Francisco is halfway to the World Series title, not all the way there. Yet, after two days of beneficial bounces and pivotal plays that went their way, the Giants and their supporters seem to think the team's second championship in three years is only a couple of days away."When things are going well," Marco Scutaro said, "things are bouncing your way."Madison Bumgarner pitched two-hit ball over seven innings, the Giants threw out a runner at the plate and then took advantage of a bunt that stayed fair to push across the go-ahead run in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night that gave them a World Series edge."It's a lot less stressful for sure," Bumgarner said, "but at the same time I don't think we can stop pushing or we're going to find ourselves in the same spot we've been in in the last two series."And that would be on the brink of elimination.San Francisco lost its first two games against Cincinnati, then became the first baseball team to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road. Then the Giants fell into 1-3 hole against St. Louis before rallying to reach the World Series."It's great to get off to a good start," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We don't, believe me, take anything for granted."As in, Gregor Blanco's bunt trickling to a stop inches fair on the infield dirt for a bases-loading, 45-foot single that set up Brandon Crawford's run-scoring double-play grounder in the seventh."I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, We practiced that today,'" Blanco said, referring to the Giants' coach. "That was a perfect bunt. I wasn't really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be."Hunter Pence, in a 1-for-7 Series slide, added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.That was enough for the Giants, given that San Francisco starters have allowed two runs in 33 innings over the last five games, a 0.55 ERA, with 30 strikeouts and six walks."It definitely feels a whole lot better than having our backs against the wall," Bumgarner said. "But you can't relax. We've got to keep pushing."Game 3 will be Saturday night in Detroit, which can't win the title at home. Midseason acquisition Anibal Sanchez starts for the Tigers and Ryan Vogelsong for San Francisco on a night when the temperature in the Motor City is expected to be in the low-to-mid 40s."We can't try to win three in one day," Prince Fielder said. "Or two for that matter."Fielder was thrown out at the plate in the second inning, and in the bottom half pitcher Doug Fister was struck on the right side of his head by Blanco's line drive, a ball hit so hard that it caromed into shallow center field."They asked me the typical concussion questions," Fister said. "I'm not concerned. I have a minor bump. According to my dad, my whole life his saying has always been if I got hit in the head I'd be OK. That's how I take it."The 6-foot-8 Fister managed to stay on the mound. Bumgarner more than matched him. Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect eighth and Sergio Romo worked a 1-2-3 ninth for a save."I don't know about baseball gods, but I'll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way," Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said.Fielder was hit by a pitch starting the second, Delmon Young followed with a double and when the ball rattled around in left field, third-base coach Gene Lamont waved the beefy slugger home.Scutaro, in the middle of every big play for the Giants this month, dashed across the diamond, caught Blanco's relay and sent a strong throw to the plate. All-Star catcher Buster Posey made a swipe tag to Fielder's backside."Any time those kind of freak plays happen that don't go your way," Fielder said. "It takes away a little momentum but you've got to be aggressive. They made a perfect play."Bumped from the NLCS rotation after two poor postseason starts, Bumgarner struck out eight and looked as sharp as he did in the 2010 World Series when as a 21-year-old rookie he beat Texas in Game 4 with eight shutout innings."Just able to make pitches," Bumgarner said. "I hadn't done a very good job of making pitches this postseason so far and this is a team that you're not going to be able to afford to miss with."They hit some balls hard, but luckily we were in the right spot," he said.The game remained scoreless until the seventh, when Pence led off with a single, rookie reliever Drew Smyly walked Brandon Belt on a full-count pitch and Blanco's bunt loaded the bases with no outsDetroit kept its infield back up the middle, and had no play at the plate on Crawford's bouncer to second."We felt like we played double-play depth because we felt like we couldn't give them two runs. That's why we did that, and we got the double play," Leyland said. "To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run. Absolutely thrilled. I mean, we had to score anyway."Of the 52 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 41 have gone on to win the title. That includes 14 of the last 15 teams with that advantage."I haven't done any studies on it," Affeldt said, "but statisically it's always better to be 2-0 than 1-1 or 0-2. I'm just guessing."NOTES:Bumgarner struck out Austin Jackson and Omar Infante to start the game. Two other Giants fanned the first two batters in a Series game: Christy Mathewson (1905) and Carl Hubbell (1933). ... Posey has a hit in all seven World Series games in his career.

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

LOS ANGELES – On the scale of NBA regular-season epic, Warriors-Clippers on Wednesday night rates a solid 8 for the Warriors. It’s circled on the desk calendars in pencil, a game they want for development and vanity.

For the Clippers, though, it’s a 9.5. Might be a 10. It’s stamped on the calendars embedded in their minds.

They need this game, psychologically, to prove they can stand up to the team that has spent the past two seasons winning a championship and setting a record for regular-season wins, simultaneously suppressing the notion of the Clippers being legitimately elite.

Los Angeles also needs to win the clash at Staples Center if these Western Conference titans are to reignite what once was the hottest rivalry in the NBA.

“We get to see what they do; they get to see what we do,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

“It’s a new four-game journey against this team,” guard Stephen Curry says. “We have history that, when you play in the division, year after year, we’re fighting for the same goal of not only winning the division but playoff seeding and coming out of the west. It’s been a nice little back and forth.”

It has been mostly forward for the Warriors, generally backward for the Clippers.

A rivalry is defined somewhat by geography but mostly by hostilities over both the regular season and the postseason. In the very best rivalries, the teams are hunting the same bounty and end up exchanging feelings of ecstasy and heartbreak.

That has been missing the past two seasons, with the Warriors winning seven of the eight games and the last six in a row. It has been Curry over Chris Paul, Draymond Green over Blake Griffin, Klay Thompson over J.J. Redick and Kerr over Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The contempt that began percolating back in 2012, reaching its apex in 2014 during a spellbinding seven-game playoff series won by LA, has been submerged by this wave of Warriors success.

The “rivalry” has declined considerably, leaving nothing but memories of the days when the teams were striving to reach the same level.

“We were a team trying to break through and make the playoffs,” Klay Thompson says. “They were trying to do the same thing, as far as trying to make noise in the playoffs. We both had an edge to ourselves and we haven’t lost it. They’re still hungry to get to that championship level. You can see that. And so are we.”

Curry traces the origin of the rivalry to Paul’s arrival in December 2011. The decorated point guard brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been every bit as much of a laughingstock as had the Warriors.

“When CP got there and the organization took a different turn, for the better obviously,” Curry recalls. “It was probably that first year we both made the playoffs (2012-13) because the records were a lot better than they usually were and there was a little more excitement around the new and up-and-coming teams.”

Games have featured ejections, multiple technical fouls – once in a preseason game – with an overdose of grabbing and posturing. One beef went postgame, nearly becoming physical in a hallway near the locker rooms.

There has been verbal warfare, sarcasm and slights and insults, though most of it lately has come from LA.

With the Warriors at 18-3 and the Clippers at 16-6, this may be the last season to reignite the conflict, and the first of four meetings will provide a sense of placement. The Warriors are 18-3, having won 14 of their last 15. The Clippers are 16-6, having lost four of their last six.

“It’ll be fun to see how it plays out,” Kerr says.

The Clippers, however, showed up for this season with a sense of urgency. Paul and Griffin both have opt-out clauses and will be free agents in July. The perennial All-Stars have been teammates for five-plus seasons, but this may be the last.

“Their continuity is really key; it’s one of the things that has helped us the last couple years,” Kerr says. “When you have basically the same team for a while, and you’re already a good team, you tend to get better. You tend to grow more and more comfortable with what you’re already doing and then, maybe even have the ability to add on some things.”

So maybe it’ll be different this season. Maybe we’ll have actual back-and-forth.

“They could be a team down the road that we need to get through to get where we want to go, and they probably see us the same way,” Curry says.

Oh, there is no doubt about that, certainly not among the Clippers.

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

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ATHLETICS/TWITTER

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.